Thursday, January 30, 2014

Elder Enzo Writes!

Got a GREAT missionary letter from Elder Enzo yesterday! He's sharing his testimony and meeting amazing (his words) people! God bless you, Elder!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Was that an Answer to My Prayer?

Engagement News

Congratulations to CJ Llera and Morgan Gillespie who became engaged yesterday! So happy you found each other!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Who Wrote the Book of Mormon?

Book of Mormon/Wordprint Studies

Question: What are wordprints? What do they have to do with the Book of Mormon?

Answer: As John Hilton put the matter, if wordprinting is a valid technique, then this analysis suggests that it is "statistically indefensible" to claim that Joseph, Oliver, or Solomon Spaulding wrote the 30,000 words in the Book of Mormon attributed to Nephi and Alma.[1] The Book of Mormon also contains work written by more than one author. Critics who wish to reject Joseph's account of the Book of Mormon's production must therefore identify multiple authors for the text, and then explain how Joseph acquired it and managed to pass it off as his own.

Neal A Maxwell Institute
            Wayne A Larsen and Alvin C Rencher, “Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? An Analysis of Wordprint, Book of Mormon Authorship, (1982): “Our approach is sometimes referred to as the science of stylometry, which can be defined loosely as statistical analysis of style. It is also called computational stylistics. We do not use the word style in the literary sense of subjective impressions characterizing an author's mode of expression. We must deal with countable items which are amenable to statistical analysis. We look then for what is frequent but largely unnoticed, the quick little choices that confront an author in nearly every sentence. Such choices become habits, so the small details flow virtually without conscious effort.”

Detailed Questions and Answers
What is a wordprint?
            Wordprinting, or "stylometry" as it is more commonly known, is the science of measuring literary style. The main assumption underlying stylometry is that an author has aspects of literary style that may be unconsciously used, and can be used to identify their work. Stylometrists analyze literature using statistics, math formulas and artificial intelligence to determine the "style" of an author's writing.
            Because authors may write on a variety of topics, the vocabulary they use may vary considerably. Researchers often attempt to use "non-contextual words" in their analyses to avoid this problem: patterns in the use of these words (e.g. such as: and, if, the, etc.) will be less influenced by a change in subject matter.
            Debate about the value of wordprints persists, though it has been used in some academic settings to identify previously-unknown authors. Readers are cautioned that the results of wordprint analysis of the Book of Mormon are only as reliable as they would be for other written works, and that "the jury is still out" as to whether wordprints can actually do what their advocates hope. The statistical analyses are not generally disputed; the points of contention revolve around the assumptions which undergird the statistics.[2]

Initial efforts
            The initial Book of Mormon wordprint studies were carried out by Larsen, Rencher, and Layton.[3] They compared twenty-four Book of Mormon authors (each having at least 1,000 words) to each other, and concluded on the basis of three separate statistical tests that these authors were distinct from each other and Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, Jr., and Solomon Spaulding.
            These efforts were critiqued in Ernest H. Taves, Trouble Enough: Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1984), 225–60. John Hilton characterized Taves' review as "fundamentally flawed," and noted that his effort "therefore did nothing to add to or detract from their work." [4]
            An LDS author considered some of Larsen, Rencher, and Layton's work in D. James Croft, "Book of Mormon 'Wordprints' Reexamined," Sunstone no. (Issue #6) (March-April 1981), 15–21. off-site Croft pointed out some flaws in their assumptions, and was cautious about whether wordprint evidence should be accepted or rejected as it then stood.

John Hilton and the Berkeley Group
            A more sophisticated approach was taken by John Hilton and non-LDS colleagues at Berkeley.[5] The "Berkeley Group's" method relied on non-contextual word patterns, rather than just individual words. This more conservative method was designed from the ground up, and required works of at least 5,000 words.
            The Berkeley Group first used a variety of control tests with non-disputed authors (e.g. works by Mark Twain, and translated works from German) in an effort to:
·         demonstrate the persistence of wordprints despite an author's effort to write as a different 'character'
·         demonstrate that wordprints were not obliterated by translation (e.g. two different authors rendered by the same translator would still have different wordprints).
            The Berkeley Group's methods have since passed peer review, and were used to identify previously unknown writings written by Thomas Hobbes.[6]
            The Berkeley Group compared Book of Mormon texts written by Nephi and Alma with themselves, with each other, and with work by Joseph, Oliver, and Solomon Spaulding. Each comparison is assessed based upon the number of "rejections" provided by the model. The greater the number of rejections, the greater the chance that the two texts were not written by the same author. Tests with non-disputed texts showed that two texts by the same author never scored more than 6 rejections; thus, one cannot be certain if scores between 1–6 were written by the same or different authors. Scores of 0 rejections makes it statistically likely the two texts were written by the same author.
            However, seven or more rejections indicates that the texts were written by a different author with a high degree of probability:[7]
# of Rejections       Certainty of being different authors
       7                                       99.5%
       8                                       99.9%
       9                                       99.99%
     10                                       99.997%

            The results are striking:[8]
            Recall that any test over 6 indicates different authorship; 1–6 or less is indeterminate; 0 is same author. Each x represents one test.
            Go to this link for charts and endnotes.   

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Old Testament Trivia Quiz: Heroines

How much do you know about faithful women of Old Testament? Dust off your Bible and test your knowledge by taking this quick trivia quiz.

1. Who ensured Moses’s safety after he’d been put in the river?
a. Moses’s sister, Miriam
b. Daughter of Pharaoh
c. One of Pharaoh’s handmaids
d. Moses’s mother, Jochebed

2. What was Esther’s Hebrew name?
a. Vashti
b. Hadassah
c. Mikhal
d. Hagar

3. What gift did Hannah give her son, Samuel, every year when she saw him at the temple?
a. A blanket
b. A bullock
c. A dove
d. A coat

4. Which woman slew wicked general Sisera, thereby delivering Israel from Canaanite bondage?
a. Jael
b. Dinah
c. Rahab
d. She is not named

5. Who was only known female judge in Israel?
a. Miriam
b. Jezebel
c. Deborah
d. She is not named

6. How did Rahab save her family from destruction at Jericho?
a. She heeded words of scriptures and knew to flee city beforehand
b. She prayed to Lord to be spared and was granted her petition
c. She hid Joshua’s spies from king of Jericho and secured from them a promise of safety
d. She took her family to Israelite temple which was spared from destruction

7. How old was Sarai, Abraham’s wife, when she bore Isaac?
a. 74
b. 86
c. 91
d. 103

8. What did Rebekah do that showed Abraham’s servant she was to be Isaac’s wife?
a. She was only woman at desert well when Abraham’s servant came
b. She offered to draw water for Abraham’s servant’s camels.
c. She took off her sandals before approaching the well
d. She spoke a heartfelt prayer before drawing water

9. Whom does Solomon’s “song of songs” praise?
a. One of Solomon’s wives
b. All covenant women
c. Daughters of Jerusalem
d. A Shulamite woman

10. Who said: “whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God”?
a. Ruth
b. Esther
c. Leah
d. Rachel


1.A: Before Pharaoh’s daughter drew Moses from river, Miriam looked after his ark of bulrushes, “to wit what would be done to him” (Exodus 2:4). Miriam also ensured that Moses’s mother, Jochebed, would be his wet nurse. 

2.B: To better assimilate into Persian culture, Jewish orphan Hadassah changed her name to Esther when she left her caretaker and uncle, Mordecai, to be presented to king. Later, at some risk, she reveals her true identity as a Jew to save her people from wicked Haman.

3.D: Samuel was Hannah’s only child; after giving him up to temple in exchange for blessing of motherhood, Hannah could visit him only once a year, and each time brought him “a little coat” (1 Samuel 2:19).

4.A: Because Jael slayed Canaanite general Sisera with a tent spike while he slept in her home, Israelite army was able to prevail against evil king Jabin. As Israelites celebrated their victory, Jael is praised as being “blessed above women” (Judges 5:24).

5.C: Apart from her position as a judge in Israel, Deborah is also named righteous prophetess in scriptures (Judges 4:4). Under her guidance, and with help of Jael (see question 4), Israel is victorious against Canaanite armies of Sisera.

6.C: When two spies from Joshua came to Rahab, she recognized that they were sent of the Lord. After hiding them from searchers, she was told to hang scarlet thread in her window so that she and all her house would be spared. 

7.C: Isaac’s miraculous conception, when Sarai was 91 and Abraham 100, fulfilled Lord’s promise to her: “she shall be mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her” (Genesis 17:16).

8.B: As Abraham’s servant approached desert well, he prayed for specific sign: whoever was to marry Isaac should offer to draw water for his camels. This faithful Rebekah did, and after meeting with her family, servant took Rebekah to be Isaac’s wife (Genesis 24). 

9.D: While woman praised in Solomon’s song is never named, in one verse we learn of her origin: she is Shulamite, or one hailing from Shulem (Song of Solomon 6:13). Another famous Shulamite (or Shunammite) in Old Testament in faithful woman who housed Elisha and was promised son for her righteousness (2 Kings 4).

10.A: Despite being Moabitess and stranger in Bethlehem, Ruth remained loyal to her marriage vows and mother-in-law, Naomi. She spoke this phrase, evidencing her virtue and devotion, when she was offered opportunity to leave Naomi and return to her mother and native people (Ruth 1:16). 
--by Kelsey Berteaux

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2014 Sunday School Course: Old Testament

1. Seeing Eve’s new potential for giving life, Adam names her Eve. In Hebrew, Eve means “to live.”

2. From Abraham 3 and facsimile 3 we learn that while Abram was in Egypt he taught the Egyptians astronomy and the gospel.

3. In Genesis 48:20, Jacob prophesies that all Israel will say blessings, asking to make people like Ephraim and Manasseh. Because of this verse, Jewish fathers still pronounce a blessing upon their sons ever Sabbath saying “may God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.”

4. The name manna comes from the Hebrew mah hu, which literally means “what is it?”

5. Many have correctly identified that the Ten Commandments can be divided in a way similar to the two great commandments. The first several are about our relationship with God and loving Him. Beginning with the command to honor our parents, the focus shifts to our relationship with our neighbor, or loving our fellow man.

6. The account of Moses’s face shining has led to an interesting artistic practice. Because the Hebrew word for shining is close to the word for horns, there has historically been both confusion and intentional playing on words when painters and sculptors have made images of Moses. Thus Moses is often depicted with horns—sometimes out of confusion but sometimes in a playful way as a kind of symbolic code for informing viewers that the person depicted is Moses.

7. Naomi’s closest relative who refuses to redeem them is looked upon with such ill favor that the authors will not even mention his name. Instead, they have Boaz use the ancient Hebrew equivalent of “what’s his name” when he says “such a one” (Ruth 4:1).

8. The baptismal fonts in our temples today, placed on the backs of twelve oxen, are modeled on the one that Solomon built when he made his temple.

9. Esther is the only book of the Bible that does not mention the name of God. This is probably intentional as it helps convey one of the main themes of Esther. It is just one device the author uses in order to highlight that while we may not always see the hand of God, nor understand His plans or timing, He is present and directing affairs to work of the good of His people.

10. The almond tree is the first to flower in Israel, so it becomes a symbol of doing things quickly. This is why the Lord uses it as a symbol of how quickly He will make His prophecies come to pass.